Area soft-drink companies are asking the public to help take a bite out of a crime that costs them an estimated $500,000 annually.
"What we're trying to do is open up some eyes out there of different citizens," said Rick Franklin, vending manager of Mid-Continent Bottlers, in Lenexa, a participant in the Coalition to Stop Vending Crime.
Mid-Continent has teamed with Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Mid-America in Lenexa, Pepsi-Cola General Bottlers Inc. of Olathe and the National Soft Drink Assn. in Washington, D.C., for the pilot program.
Bright yellow stickers are being placed on soft drink vending machines in nine Kansas and Missouri counties. The stickers ask people to call 1-800-511-SODA if they notice theft or vandalism to a machine. The number is answered by a security firm, which relays the information to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
Callers who supply information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for crimes to machines owned by one of the program participants may be eligible for a reward.
The program is being conducted in Douglas, Johnson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties in Kansas and Andrew, Buchanan, Platte, Clay and Jackson counties in Missouri.
Lawrence police had no information on the number of vending machine crimes reported this year.
Jim Denney, director of the Kansas University Police Department, said campus police had investigated two thefts from vending machines so far this year. Those crimes resulted in the theft of $40 in money and property and $1,080 damage to the machines.